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Butterflies are dying in warm winters

UK butterflies dying in warm winters: a new report highlights concerns for UK butterfly population.

Warm winters are terrible for butterflies dying populations, experts revealed today.

The beautiful insects emerge too early from their pupae, limiting their chances of survival. The research was conducted by the University of East Anglia for the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme and demonstrated that extreme weather conditions are creating havoc for the butterfly populations. The yo-yoing weather scenarios created by climate change are much more damaging for our insect friends than moderate temperature increases.

Warm summers may boost butterfly population, while warm winters confuse the natural development of pupae and cause early hatching. Researchers collected data from more than 1800 sites in the UK over the past 37 years. Sadly, extremely heavy rainfall last year affected more than a quarter of the UK butterfly population.

Study co-author Dr. Aldina Franco from the University of East Anglia said: “Although the summer was warm, the number of butterflies counted was particularly low. For example, recent low counts of gatekeeper, common blue, comma, peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies could be . . . due to their negative response to warm winters.”

Lead author Osgur McDermott-Long commented, “The study has demonstrated previously unknown sensitivities of our butterflies to extreme climatic events, which are becoming more frequent with climate change . . . . Some of these effects are undoubtedly putting future populations at risk, such as extremely warm winters.”

Dr. Tom Brereton from Butterfly Conservation, a co-author of the study, said: “If we are to mitigate against extreme events as part of conservation efforts, in particular, we need a better understanding of the habitat conditions which can lead to successful survival of adult, pupal and overwintering life stages of UK butterflies in these situations.”

You can read the news release over at The University of East Anglia.

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